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£226 million UK investment in cancer research announced

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | News

1 December 2016

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Harpal Kumar speaking at the NCRI

Cancer Research UK has announced the largest investment to date into its network of Centres across the UK. £190 million has been committed to 13 Cancer Research UK Centres over the next five years.

“This huge investment is only made possible through generous donations from the public and the tireless fundraising of our supporters.” – Sir Harpal Kumar

Additionally, Cancer Research UK and the Departments of Health* are investing £36 million over five years into 18 Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) for adult patients and also a network of Centres for children**.

The huge investment will draw together world class research and medical expertise to accelerate advances in research and support clinical trials essential to getting lifesaving treatments to patients.

Cancer Research UK Centres*** bring together research teams from local universities, NHS hospitals and other research organisations. They operate as a network that focuses on translational research – getting cutting edge discoveries from the laboratory to patients and learning as much as possible from patients to initiate new research ideas and programmes.

The ECMCs**** aim to bring better treatments faster to cancer patients in the UK through both the adult and children’s network of Centres. They are hubs where promising cancer treatments – including small molecule drugs, surgery, immunotherapy, and vaccines – are safely tested for the first time in patients. These Centres help give people with cancer access to cutting-edge treatments and precision medicine by testing new ways of detecting and monitoring the disease and how it responds to treatment.

This investment will also train the next generation of cancer researchers by funding PhD students and cancer doctors at the start of a research career, and providing specialist training for ECMC staff involved in the development and delivery of clinical trials.

Centre status is awarded to locations performing the highest quality cancer research, and investment is made into infrastructure, funding for technical staff, equipment, training and running costs, developing the breadth and depth of research at each of these Centres.

The applications are reviewed by an international panel of experts to make sure that only the best science is funded.

Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of strategy and research funding at Cancer Research UK, said: “This is the largest investment we have ever made into the Centres and we are incredibly proud of that. It’s also the first time we have co-funded the paediatric ECMC network with the National Institute for Health Research and the Chief Scientist Office, Scotland, which will help boost research to develop smarter, kinder treatments for children.

“This money provides vital infrastructure for bench to bedside research. By strengthening the relationship between scientists and doctors, basic research guides clinical practice as effectively as possible.

“This is particularly important for hard to treat cancers like pancreatic, oesophageal, lung and brain tumours. By combining expertise and different disciplines, we hope to ignite much needed momentum into research for these cancers.

“The funding is also an investment in the next generation of scientists. We are creating opportunities for PhD students and ensuring that the brightest scientists are attracted and supported in their career in cancer research.”

Nicola Blackwood, Minister for Public Health and Innovation, said: “We want to lead the world in fighting cancer. The work of Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres is crucial in this fight. This next phase of funding from the National Institute for Health Research will help our world-leading researchers to continue to make new discoveries. 

“The collaboration between universities, NHS Trusts and the research community is a key reason these centres are successful, and illustrates why the UK is the best place in the world to be a researcher.

“I hope this funding will ultimately lead to more timely, life-saving treatments for patients.”

Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, said: “Together, these Centres accelerate the discovery and development of better treatments for cancer patients. They are a unique opportunity for collaboration, both locally across universities and hospitals, and nationally across the network of Centres.

“I’m particularly pleased that our international panel of experts, which renewed these Centres, stated repeatedly their view that there is no other network like this, of this quality, anywhere else in the world.

“This is an exciting time for cancer research. Emerging treatments like immunotherapy are radically changing the field, we are increasingly able to tailor more treatments to individual patients, and advances in technology mean we can collect and share more research data than ever before.

“Cancer Research UK’s projections are that we will reach more than 500,000 new diagnoses of cancer a year in the UK by 2035. By that time, our goal is that three in four people will survive their cancer. Funding these Centres is one of the charity’s most important strategic priorities and one which will help us reach this ambition.

“This huge investment is only made possible through generous donations from the public and the tireless fundraising of our supporters.”